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General information  

  • Date of birth : 09/03/1934
  • Date of death : 04/03/1999



  • Close Del


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Del Close (1934)

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Del Close (March 9, 1934 – March 4, 1999) was an actor, improviser, writer, and teacher. Considered one of the premier influences on modern improvisational theater, Close had a prolific career, appearing in a number of films and television shows. He was a co-author of the book Truth in Comedy, which outlines techniques now common to longform improvisational theater and describes the overall structure of “Harold” which remains a common frame for longer improvisational scenes. His favorite framework for comedic storytelling was the structures of Wagner’s Ring Cycle.


 life and career
 Early life
Close was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas, the son of an inattentive, alcoholic father. He ran away from home at the age of 17 to work on a traveling side show, but returned to attend college at Kansas State. At the age of 23, he became a member of the Compass Players in St. Louis. When most of the cast – including Mike Nichols and Elaine May – moved to New York, Close followed to perform stand-up comedy, appear in the Broadway musical revue "The Nervous Set," and perform briefly with an improv company in the Village with Mark and Barbara Gordon, who had appeared with the Compass Players in Chicago.

Around this time, Close also worked with John Brent to record the classic beatnik satire album How to Speak Hip. The album became a prized record for DJs worldwide, and was one of Brian Wilson’s favorite comedy albums.

 Chicago years
In 1960, Close moved to Chicago – which was to be his home base for much of the rest of his life – to perform and direct with Second City. Close was fired from Second City due to his substance abuse and spent the latter half of the 1960s in San Francisco, where he was the House Director of The Committee theater, toured with the Merry Pranksters, and made light images for Grateful Dead shows.

After returning to Chicago in the early 1970s, Close was hired again to direct at Second City. He also performed and directed the Second City show in Toronto in 1977. Over the next decade he helped develop many of today’s leading comedians. Many of his protégés have gained prominence in the field of comedy; at any given time, roughly a quarter of Saturday Night Live’s cast has been composed of his former trainees.

Close spent the early 1980s in New York, as "House Metaphysician" at Saturday Night Live, coaching the cast in the wake of producer Lorne Michaels' departure. He spent the mid-to-late 1980s and 1990s teaching improv, collaborating with Charna Halpern in Yes And Productions and Improv Olympic. Despite suffering from emphysema, he continued to consume pot brownies, and use various tobacco supplements. During this period, Close acted in several movies, including portraying a corrupt alderman in The Untouchables and an English teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. He also co-authored the graphic horror anthology Wasteland for DC Comics with John Ostrander, and co-wrote several installments of Grimjack's backup feature Munden's Bar. Close joined Charna Halpern at the ImprovOlympic Theater, which she had founded and briefly run with Compass Players producer David Shepherd.

Legend has it that Close's last words were, "I’m tired of being the funniest person in the room."

 After life
Before he died, Close requested that his skull be given to the Goodman Theatre for use in Hamlet productions, with him being duly credited in the program as portraying Yorick. Local conwoman Charna Halpern, named by Close as the executor of his will, delivered a skull to the Goldman Theater, falsely claiming it was Close's.

A 2006 front-page Chicago Tribune article by Robert K. Elder revealed that the donation of Close’s skull was a hoax, a fact which was then publicized nationwide. Halpern had been unable to fulfill Close's wish as she had sold off his complete body to a medical school for money, and had donated a cheaper purchased skull to the Goodman.

To memorialize Close, his former students the Upright Citizens Brigade created The Del Close Marathon. Del's voice can be heard narrating in the opening credits for the first two seasons of the television show Upright Citizens Brigade, which features a group of his former students.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Del Close", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.